Welcome to the Gallery

Imagine is set in the Suffolk village of Long Melford.
This is an attempt to record the daily trials, tribulation and pleasure of running an art gallery.

Friday, 1 July 2011

With such a long gap it's hard to know where to start, the longer it has become the more I have felt inclined to leave it "until another day".
The realisation that another day means "sometime never", made me decide to focus a little and at least write something, so for what it's worth here it is.

I find it hard to believe that we have gone from one exhibition to almost another and that I have written nothing about daily events.
They couldn't have been that interesting, I tell myself.
A new exhibition is almost upon us, I admit that this has caught me out a little because for some reason I thought that I had another week until I had a call from my printer asking me
"are you sure you don't need these invitations sooner".
Blimey, I did, what was I thinking of.
So at least they have arrived in time, been sent out, and as as a result I have become a lot more focused.

For the first time ever we are going to hold a "Summer Exhibition".
I have always thought that these sort of titles were a bit of a "cop out" and I have interpreted
Summer/Autumn/Winter/Spring exhibitions as meaning
"this is all we have, we can't think of anything so come and buy it anyway".
So to think that the day would come when I would do such a thing was unbelievable.
Until that is I decided that there were a few artists whose work I was longing to show but they, or us weren't in the position to have a solo exhibition.
I struggled to find a name or a reason to hold an exhibition involving them all until in the end the answer came. "Summer Exhibition".
Well it is summer, and these are people that I really want to show, and will do again in the future with solo exhibitions of their own.

The first person whose work I am showing you is a St. Ives potter named John Bedding.

I have mentioned before that once I was a potter.
This is back in the days before potters shows and similar events existed, then the only way you could sell work was from the workshop [studio is the name now] or in a gallery.
In those days there was only one major ceramic gallery and that was called the Craftsmen Potters Association.
Since then they have gone upmarket and are now called Contemporary Ceramics.
After all how can you have the word "craftsmen" when females are involved.
I wonder how long before someone decides that there are racial issues and the name will have to change again. Sometimes, "just sometimes" changes seem so silly and seemed to be aimed at idiots and bigots, where has innocence gone?
Anyway, since I am not standing for a place in Parliament I had better move on.

Back in those days everyone was given a six month probation period in the C.P.A. in case the quality of your work dropped, or just in case the pots you were accepted by were the only six good pieces you had ever made, if on re-appraisal it was felt you weren't delivering the goods then you were out.
Of course nowadays you are in for life no matter what you go on to make afterwards.
So of course it is obvious that after being accepted I was then kicked out six months later.

Of course I would love to talk about this at great length, and would love to name the committee
members of those days.
But am I going to be childish?
No, I will leave that for another day.

The result was that my sales disappeared, and I couldn't sell enough from the pottery to support a young family.
If only those pottery shows around the country existed then my life would be different now.
Not better, just different.

Now it has all turned around and potters ask "what do galleries do"?
I have just showed at the "Potters, potters and more potters" show [or similar] last week and I made a bundle,
Who needs a gallery?

Alas, as a young man this wasn't the case and with the need to provide for a family I closed my pottery and took a job in London that paid a real wage.
But I remember my last night as a potter.
I took my dog for a walk on the Essex marshes where we lived, sitting down with him on a small hillock I looked back into the distance at the pottery.
The roof tiles glowing deep red with the setting sun, and I could see the tip of the kiln chimney.

I tiled that roof, it had been a derelict barn open to the elements before I restored it from the ground up.
It was a silly thing to do as it was rented from the local Church and would never be mine, but sometimes you do silly things if it makes you happy, and having that workshop gave me a lot of happiness. A lot of heartache, but it made me happy.
So with my arm around my dog I looked back at a dream, then took him home and turned my back on pottery.
For many years, I had no interest in pots, or potters. Indeed I wished never to see a pot again.
We had a family holiday at St Ives in Cornwall.
Every evening we would walk down to the waterfront, get bags of chips a feed seagulls,
all those usual holiday things. What wasn't usual is that each evening we had to pass the window of a pottery, of course I would stop and look and remember the past, but as the week past I realised that I really loved these pots, and one bottle in particular.
It was different to anything I had ever seen and really stirred all of the emotions that had been long buried, I really wanted to own it.
On the last day of our stay we went to have our last fish supper, this time the pottery was open.
Irene went in and purchased for me the pot I liked so much.
It was by a potter named John Bedding, an apprentice of the famous potter Bernard Leach.

This pot changed my life.
I fell back in love with ceramics, and is perhaps the reason we are here today with a gallery.

John Bedding's pots are going to form part of our Summer Exhibition.
Next year he will be back with a solo exhibition.

So it is really mixed and personal emotions that I will showing his work.
I love it.


  1. You now have me massively intrigued, my maiden name is Bedding and there are (as far as we know) not that many of us. Mainly descended from two farming families in the Oxfordshire area. John is also a traditional name in the family, although that is less unusual.

    The family scattered around early on, would be delighted to discover there is a connection.

  2. Glad that you rediscovered your love of pots and ceramics as the above samples are stunning.
    So did another artist take advantage of your hard work renovating the barn or did resume its previous glory?

  3. Charlotte.
    I will ask him about the connections.
    However, a lady came in today and looked at one of his pots and said
    "Oh,my God. Bedding is my maiden name and my favourite uncle was called John."
    I mentioned you and what you wrote and as a result she has left her email. So mail me if you would like it.

  4. Jacqui.

    I don't know what became of the barn.
    I did hear years later that a "hobby" potter was using it, but now I don't know. I last went to look at it about 10 years ago and it was empty and very overgrown. I wished that I hadn't gone back.
    Recently I looked on 'Google Earth' and with the satellite picture I could still see the remains of the kiln. I have many fond memories of nights outside stoking that kiln with a friend.
    But I don't think that I would like to see it or the barn again now.
    It represents a lost dream.

    The funny thing is, I started making pots because I wanted to be able to sell them in a gallery that we were going to have one day.
    So at least part of the dream still exists.